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  • Thinking Urban


Date: January 13, 2015

By Nehal El-Sherif

Cairo is one of the most crowded cities worldwide with an estimated population of 20 million, so there is less and less space to accommodate everybody. Many of the poorest citizens have even taken to building shanty towns in the city cemeteries.

Construction and real estate boomed in Egypt in the 2000s, as it did worldwide. Under the rule of Hosny Mubarak, the government encouraged the private sector to develop mega projects. While many projects were built, thus expanding the borders of the capital and other adjacent cities, these ‘compounds’ actually targeted the higher middle class and the upper class communities, a minority in Egypt’s almost 90-million population.

The government’s lack of planning to decentralize and expand the job market outside the main cities drove many people back to the capital on a daily basis for work and other purposes. A lack of an organized public transportation system also makes things worse. Moreover, as years pass, it appears that the urban planning of these ‘compounds’ did not really avoid the mistakes seen in other central areas, such as the lack of rain drains, weak sewage system, better roads and functioning traffic lights.

In Cairo, it is normal to see families living in small huts on rooftops of buildings and many have been living for years in cemeteries, scattered around the city. These cemeteries were once located on the outskirts of Cairo, but now as the capital expanded, they are now in the centre.

The government is currently working on a new plan to fix this problem, though plans remain fragile in the face of political instability.

Photo: Tamara Abdul Hadi

Nehal El-Sherif is one of ThinkingUrban's global reporters on city planning affairs. With more than seven years of experience in the media and communications sector, Nehal has worked as a Communications Assistant at IFC’s regional office in Cairo for almost three years.



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